When cultural renewal movements stirred societies around the world after the end of World War II, cinema also reinvented itself - the French Nouvelle Vague with its flagship medium of Cahiers de Cinéma is just one example. Taking their inspiration from this, the Mekas brothers founded the legendary Film Culture Magazine in New York in 1952, with the intention of making an independent American cinema more visible. However, the magazine quickly became the voice of a non-commercial, experimental and avant-garde film. As such, it became the defense line of a counterculture that had been forming into a broad anti-establishment phenomenon since the Vietnam War at the latest.
Jonas Mekas, who initially tried to be close to this explicitly political counterculture and at the same time became a central figure of underground culture in the 1960s, was interested in a wide variety of artistic forms of protest at the time. Dance, performance and theater were incorporated into his own films. His experience as a refugee, however, made him aware of the increasing nuclear threat of the Cold War, in addition to the Vietnam War. His advocacy of the avant-garde as a counterculture, however, did not stop at supporting particular artistic or political movements. It was marked by a principled defense of the aesthetic experience of everyday life as a humanizing force.
Gideon Bachmann's documentary JONAS, made for NDR, portrays Mekas in 1968 as an underground impresario on his daily forays through New York, which is thereby casually portrayed as a rebellious art metropolis.
FOR LIFE, AGAINST WAR(1967) is a unique contemporary document of artistic activism. Mekas contributed his short film When (1967), in which he silently films the United States Declaration of Independence, to the complilation film, which was created as a collective statement by US independent filmmakers against the Vietnam War.
The American author and critic Amy Taubin, who was not only a regular visitor to the Film-Makers' Cinematheque from 1961, but later also worked with Jonas Mekas, talks about "Jonas Mekas and the New York Underground".
Talk (online): „Jonas Mekas and the New York Underground“ with Amy Taubin (Film critic)
Reading: Heike Geißler and Goda Palekaitė, from texts by Jonas Mekas
Jonas Gideon Bachmann Deutschland 1968 Digital file OV/EnS 30 min.
For Life, Against War (Selections) Week Of The Angry Arts USA 1967 16 mm OV 114 min.